Resting players at this stage of the season will boost Leeds Rhinos’ prospects of finishing the year in good form, according to coach Brian McDermott.
The team boss has been criticised in the past for not rotating his side throughout the year, but has always maintained he would be keen to do that if he had an injury-free squad to choose from.
With major fitness problems yet to bite, McDermott has given England wingers Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe a one-game break this year and rested captain Kevin Sinfield for last week’s win over London Broncos – the first time he has missed a Rhinos fixture he was available for since 2009.
Influential forwards Brett Delaney and Jamie Peacock were also given an opportunity to get over some bumps and bruises last week and while McDermott will select from strength for Friday’s trip to St Helens, he said he will continue to rest players when he can.
“I have never been able to rest Kevin since I’ve been in charge,” said McDermott. “He has been stood down for a game here and there because of injury, but not rested.
“I haven’t been able to rest JP too many times and certainly there’s been no chance to rest the outside-backs before. You might not see a benefit in the immediate short-term – resting players last week is no guarantee we are going to win on Friday – but hopefully it will be a benefit to us in the long-term, over the course of the season.”
McDermott said that sort of planning is done well in advance, rather than on a week-to-week basis.
“You have a look at the calendar and the fixture list,” he said.
“There are some games that might suit certain personnel and a certain team and it also goes on how you are traveling as well.
“There is no real rule of thumb, but there are a few things to consider.”
The coach said he will be keen to rest players throughout the year and before key matches, if injuries permit.
“You don’t necessarily get to a certain point in the season and say ‘I am not going to rest players after this’,” he stated.
“I would look at resting players before a huge game.
“Should we make quarter-finals or semi-finals, should I have the ability to rest players there is no guarantee I will do that, but I will if I think it’s the right thing to do.”
McDermott was due to name his initial 19-man squad for Friday’s game this afternoon.
Briscoe and Sinfield will come back into contention and Peacock and Delaney are also set to return.
Moon, who suffered a hamstring injury in the win over Widnes, has been given an outside chance of featuring.
If he is available that would leave only off-season signing Andy Yates, who damaged an Achilles in training last November, on the casualty list.
Saints will be without former Leeds and Wakefield prop Kyle Amor and Jon Wilkin for Friday night’s game.
Amor was banned for one match after submitting an early guilty plea to a Grade B charge of committing a reckless high tackle on Trinity’s Matt Ryan in Sunday’s game at Rapid Solicitors Stadium.
Wilkin pleaded guilty to a Grade B offence of making a reckless high tackle on Wildcats winger Chris Riley in the same match and has been suspended for two matches and fined £300.
Meanwhile, Rhinos’ under-19s take on Saints in a curtain-raiser at Langtree Park on Friday (5.30pm).